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I could have (should have) asked the band my burning question when I had the opportunity at the House of Blues in Cleveland two weeks ago.
We had been anticipating this night for weeks, because the roster had three Cleveland “elite” playing in a single night – Carlos Jones, Broccoli Samurai, and Tropidelic. Despite the fact that I had been living in Cleveland for what was closing in on two years now, I had failed to see any of these acts play a full show. I had seen Tropidelic perform once at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during my tenure there, but only briefly, surrounded by some rather stiff colleagues, and with other scheduled meetings competing for my time and attention.
This time around I was able to immerse myself more directly into the real vibe of Tropidelic and the supporting acts, with the bands being gracious enough to let me shoot their performances as a means of building my rapidly growing concert photography portfolio. I was able to snag what is perhaps my best live shoot to date (see gallery below), in part due to the level of energy exchange happening, and in part due to a truly fun-to-watch cast of characters that they have on stage. That precipice between the audience and stage has always been a defining one, being the line where the energy flows out from the band to the fans, and the fans back to the band, and when this ping-pong game of energy exchanging continues with both entities fulfilling their responsibilities the result can be nothing short of a true symbiosis between the band and the fans. It’s a special privilege and a unique opportunity to reside in that trench during a performance like Tropidelic’s. The band was quite simply throwing everything they had to throw at the hometown crowd. Cleveland being Cleveland, its own harshest critic and simultaneously its greatest cheerleader, threw it right back at them. It was clear by the end of their second song – this isn’t just a great band with kick-ass songwriting and a great sense of humor. This is Cleveland’s band. The crowd made it clear… these are our boys, and they’re just about to outgrow us.
Tropidelic is currently touring the western U.S. with April dates in Denver, Vegas, and Southern California. There is no doubt they’ll pick up fans and recognition out on the left coast, especially given the fact that they’re touring this time around with the hands-down best studio release, “Go Down With the Ship.” The first five tracks above happen to be my favorites from this release (the first not actually being a song, but rather a Monty Python-esque skit that gives a big tongue-in-cheek nod to Cleveland institutions like Melt and the Grog Shop, and pays homage to Moses Cleveland, founder of Cleveland (and smoker of the finest of herbs).
The second cut, Bad Cookie, has been my go-to track on my playlist since the show. It’s a nice funk/groove roll with lyrics that are insanely catchy but have frankly caused some sideways stares as I can’t resist constantly rapping along with the chorus, even when in decidedly questionable places to do so (like the pharmacy line at the drug store).
Bad cookie, I like the way you looky
She a bad mamma jamma, got a magnet in her pussy
Rolling up a fat doobie in the back of the schoolie
And when she light it up she like, “what you think I”m a rookie?”
Bad cookie, tell your boss you’re playin’ hooky
Cuz your fathers in the pen and your mama likes to boogie
Ya its a hung jury what the fun done to me
Bad cookie, you only want me for some nookie
It’s getting harder and harder to classify music into specific genres, and Tropidelic, like many young bands, has a variety of influences that stick out from song to song. While they may have been largely classified as “reggae” in the past, understandably in some ways given the influences of early releases, the new release boasts a variety of influences that push reggae (while certainly still a root influence) into the back seat. New Orleans funk, Beastie-era hip hop and rap, Dick Dale surf music, ska and Latin music vibes all stick to my mind when I free-associate the songs on this release to my mental music inventory.
That’s one of the reasons this band is so fucking fun. the music is unusually diverse, drawing on several influences but ultimately defining it’s own style as it invents and reinvents itself through steps in the band’s evolution. Layered on top of the diverse musical styles is the general theatrics and antics of the band on stage. They’re not only a fun band to listen to, but also a seriously fun band to watch. Their lead guitarist Bobby Chronic is an O.G. metalhead guitar shredder, with a fine head of hair that he knows how to work (see pics below). Juxtapose that with the horn section across the stage, muscular, buzzcut, and shirtless, laying down coordinated dance moves and hip thrusts that would make Bruno Mars’ horn line envious. They all egg each other on, reveling in rock star personas and entertainer mindset, allowing a photographer like me the joy of discovering pictures in the camera roll where more than just a few feet of the band members are floating a good foot or two off of the stage floor (and the realistic pain of finding that most pictures are subject to motion blur because these guys can’t stay still for even one twenty-fifth of a second).
They return to the Ohio area in late April through later May, and I plan to catch them at one (if not many) of these shows, if for no other reason then to ask that burning question I should have asked earlier… the question to which I have not found a consistent or plausible answer. The question is simply this…
How do you pronounce it?
Tr-AH-pidelic (like the Tropics)?
Tr-OH-pidelic (like ‘oh shit’)?
If it weren’t for Cleveland’s “vowel problem” I’d have probably solved this mystery already, but alas, the Cleveland accent has proven a barrier, and presented me with a mystery to solve. Stay tuned for updates.
SEE GALLERY BELOW FOR PHOTOS FROM 3/24/2017 AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES: